COVID-19 Resilience Through Innovation

Connecting Communities to the Environment

The Walder Foundation invites proposals from Chicago-region environmental organizations to develop innovative and equitable approaches to connect people with the environment during COVID-19.

Thriving natural areas and a healthy environment are critical elements of a more resilient society. Public engagement can create new champions for nature and ensure that the environment is protected and prominently positioned in our COVID-19 recovery efforts.

Access to nature is an equity issue and lack of green space disproportionately occurs in communities of color, which has a significant impact on public health. Underlying health issues caused and magnified by environmental factors such as poor air quality means that residents in these communities are more susceptible to respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. The pandemic is symptomatic of the broader climate and biodiversity emergencies we face. Addressing the acute needs that COVID-19 has placed on our communities has been critical, but we must also address the chronic environmental issues that continue to afflict our underserved communities and can increase the severity of the disease.

About the Funding Opportunity

Grants of $25,000 up to $200,000 will be awarded to projects that are taking innovative, collaborative and inclusive approaches to engage, inspire and educate the public about Chicago’s nature and its benefits, placing the environment at the center of our recovery from COVID-19. Projects should be completed within 12 months. Priority will be given to organizations working within and for communities of color and in areas that lack access to green space.

Grants will be made based on several factors, including innovation, potential impact, audience served, collaboration, and strength and equity of partnerships.

We encourage collaborative projects with community-based organizations in neighborhoods that lack access to nature and green space. Each grant will be awarded to one individual organization. Any sub-grants to partnering nonprofit or fiscally-sponsored organizations should be included in your project budget. Both the primary organization and any nonprofit or fiscally-sponsored partners may allocate up to 15% of the budget for indirect costs.

Examples of work may include but are not limited to:

  • Enabling safe public access, exploration, enjoyment, and understanding of Chicago’s biodiversity, especially in neighborhoods where green space is lacking.
  • Community engagement that highlights the many benefits of nature, including human health and well-being.
  • Citizen science programs, surveys, monitoring, and analysis.
  • Programs specifically aimed at reaching new audiences, especially those who lack safe access to the outdoors.
  • Translation of environmental communication and outreach materials into languages other than English.
  • Enabling members of the public to champion environmental causes in their communities.

Eligibility Criteria

  • Based in or serve the greater Chicago metropolitan region (Cook, Lake, McHenry, Will, Kane, DuPage, Kendall counties).
  • The primary applicant and any sub-grant(s) recipients must be recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as section 501(c)(3) public charities.

Application Process

We recognize that organizations, especially those that are community-based, are already stretched for capacity. Therefore, we have a streamlined process that we hope will reduce the administrative burden for organizations that apply for this funding. Please let us know if you require assistance in completing the process.

  1. The first step will be to answer a few questions about your organization and your proposed project in writing.
  2. If you are selected to move forward, you will be invited to discuss your proposal with a member of the Walder Foundation’s staff and asked to provide some additional information about the project and your organization.

Please send responses to the following questions in a Word document by email to [email protected].

  1. Project title
  2. Primary contact, email address, and phone number
  3. Federal Tax Identification Number/EIN
  4. Name(s) and EIN(s) of collaborating organizations (if applicable), main contact and contact information
  5. Total requested amount
  6. Describe the project you are proposing (up to 500 words).
  7. Describe the primary audience(s) for this work and the communities it will impact (up to 250 words).
  8. Estimate the number of individuals that will be reached through this work.
  9. List the key deliverables for this work (up to 250 words).
  10. Describe the nature of the relationship between the primary applicant and any collaborating organization(s), if applicable (up to 250 words).
  11. Provide a line-item budget for your project, as well as a breakdown for any sub-grants to nonprofit or fiscally-sponsored partners. For complex budgets, Excel spreadsheets are preferred.
  12. Describe how the funds will be spent (up to 250 words).
Applications will be reviewed and funded on a rolling basis until August 31, 2020.

About the Walder Foundation

The Walder Foundation was established by Joseph and Elizabeth Walder to address critical issues impacting our world. The Foundation’s five areas of focus—science innovation, environmental sustainability, the performing arts, migration and immigrant communities, and Jewish life—are an extension of the Walders’ lifelong passions, interests, and their personal and professional experiences.

We are driven by the urgency to foster sustainability and resilience in the sectors in which we invest. We support efforts to create efficiencies, build capacity, and nurture collaborations for lasting impact.